In April of 1972, Larry and I were interested in the Salt Creek area that connected from the East side of the Salton Sea, via service roads along the Coachella Canal. Our route would then follow up Salt Creek, using the Bradshaw Trail, along which the mining railroad from the Kaiser Eagle Mountain iron ore mines North of I-10, made 52 mile daily trips of 100-car ore trains to meet the main line of the Southern Pacific railroad, along the East side of the Salton Sea. They hauled the open ore cars up past Indio, through San Gorgonio Pass and dropped off the train cars at the Kaiser Steel Plant at Fontana, California. (West of San Bernardino).
Our adventure started for me at 2:00 A.M. at my house in Whittier, where I had earlier loaded my Honda SL125 dual-purpose motorcycle into the camper and loaded my gear for the trip to Salt Creek. Finally, I was ready and headed my truck to San Diego, to pick up Larry at his house and put his dune buggy and trailer onto my dock-bumper hitch he had made. When I arrived in San Diego, I refilled my gas tanks, and drove to his house.
Final loading of his gear did not take long, and we drove to a nearby all night restaurant for breakfast. That finished, we were under way out of San Diego via State hiway 67 through Ramona, and switching over to State hiway 78 East and around the South end of the Salton Sea to it’s East side up State hiway 111.
We wanted to get over to the Coachella Canal and it’s service road. We left hiway 111 at Bombay Beach, going East over the paved road past the Imperial hot mineral spa, thence onto the dirt service road that ran along the Coachella Canal.
A final turn North to Siphon 24, crossed it and Larry spotted a rock road leading up to a quarry about 400 feet above the canal road and the dirt road into Salt Creek. Remember, my faithful Ford truck had my motorcycle inside the camper and was pulling Larry’s dune buggy on it’s trailer which was a tad wider than my truck.
I went into “granny-gear” on the manual transmission, and trusted the limited-slip differential would keep both rear wheels powering up the fist-sized rocks making the roadbed. There was a tricky right-angle turn we just made as the grade steepened for the last 100 feet of elevation. 1:00 P.M. I turned onto the large flat base of the rock quarry. What a great camping location it was.
The view of the Coachella Valley in the distance and the winding route of the canal was great. I should mention that the final grade to the quarry was sheer drops both sides of the wheel tracks.
We broke out the ice cold beer, peanuts, and tortilla chips, set up the deluxe wood, rope, and aluminum camping chairs right at the edge of the quarry. Temperature was 82 degrees with a pleasant breeze to add to our relaxation.
After a couple of hours recuperating from our trip, we offloaded the dune buggy, and my dual-purpose motorcycle. Consulting our topographic maps, we did some close exploration for about two hours, then back to the quarry camp site.
Tomorrow would be a busy day. But it was so nice out we built a small fire, moved the camp chairs near it, and stayed up to midnight before giving in to a need for some sleep. It had been a long day for me; 22 hours!
Sunday. Got up at 6:00 A.M., and it was 72 degrees along with a warm breeze. Breakfast was donuts and hot chocolate. Then it was time to look over the maps and plan the day. Larry checked over the dune buggy, and I prepared my motorcycle, topping off it’s gas and oil, and checking the chain tension. That was rugged country we had decided to explore that day.
We headed down our rocky ramp from the quarry to the dirt road into Salt Creek. The creek bed was wide enough to permit wandering back and forth between the sides. There were little clumps of smoke trees and tamarisk from time to time. We also crossed under several railroad bridges before we came to the entrance of Canyon Spring.
We turned up the Canyon Spring road and shortly arrived at the spring where several fellow desert rats were camped with their 4-wheel drive vehicles. We waved and passed on up the narrowing “road” until we came to the bloodstone diggings.
No actual mine existed. Rockhounds had opened up two vertical seams in the rock and scraped out the “country rock” until the stones were pried loose. The bloodstone was a medium green with red spots like blood worked through it, hence the name. We searched through the rubble for some small pieces to take home.
We turned around and rejoined Salt Creek, heading for a prominent square butte on our left. Directly in front of it was a wide, very sandy, roadbed with tire tracks leading further into a canyon. This was Red Canyon. Larry had it easy in the dune buggy. I had to paddle the bike along with my feet while trying to keep enough speed to keep me from sinking deeper into the “road.” Hot, sweaty work!
Finally we gave up, turned around, admired the colorful sides of the canyon, and pulled up under some shady tamarisk trees, in Salt Creek, to cool off. A long drink from my canteen tasted great! After reviving for a bit, we left the shade, and returned to the base of the square butte. Riding about ½ mile further, Northeast, along Salt Creek, we came to a sharp up-angled tire-gouged dirt road leading to the top of the mesa.
Through later explorations in 1974, we found this “jeep trail” went completely across the mesa, North to Interstate 10. On this trip, we rode along the top of the hogback for about 5 miles and then turned back. Larry spotted a steep sloping dirt “road” that led directly down the side of Red Canyon, to it’s bottom, and thence out to Salt Creek.
Saying he’d meet me at the square butte, I watched him creep slowly down the one-way “road” and into Red Canyon. I fired up my motorcycle and continued across the hogbacked mesa top and back down the way we came up. I rode over to the sandy entrance to Red Canyon at the base of the square butte. It was to be some two hours before I would see Larry again.
I loitered around the sandy entrance. It was quite warm so I rode over to the cluster of tamarisk trees and shut off the motorcycle. I kept this cycle up for an hour, then decided something must have gone wrong. I looked into my bike’s gas tank, and decided I had to return to our quarry camp site, where I topped off the gas tank, grabbed a flashlight and a pullover, in case it was late when he got out.
I kicked over the engine and rode down the rocky ramp and back up Salt creek. A speck appeared in the distance, growing larger by the moment. It was Larry in the dune buggy.
It turned out that he had been unable to see a mudslide between his “slide” and the entrance to the square butte area. He could not drive over it, and so drove around a maze of adjacent canyons until he came to some other campers who gave him the right directions to return to Salt Creek.
I was greatly relieved I wouldn’t have to ride to a phone by the Salton Sea and get a search and rescue going. I passed him my canteen and turned my motorcycle around following Larry back to camp. It was then 2:00 P.M. We sat in our chairs sipping beer and discussing his adventure until 6:00 P.M. when we put the dune buggy on it’s trailer, my bike inside my camper, cleaned up the camp, fired up my truck, and slowly drove down the rock ramp to the canal, and started home.
We had a well deserved dinner that night at 9:00 P.M. at the Holly House, by the junction of State hiway 86 and the Borrego-Salton Seaway. I got Larry home in San Diego by midnight. I then drove on to Whittier, California, pulling into my driveway at 2:30 A.M. Monday morning. And yes, I went to work, without getting any sleep.